Sunday, April 29, 2012

South Park – Postmodern text

Is South Park an adult cartoon of elementary kids spewing racial epithets or is there some hidden social agenda behind it? It may be a widely accepted conclusion that South Park is a racist show, however, is it racist if you as an individual or group make fun of or criticize one ethnic/social group? What if no one is off limits and everyone is “targeted?” Would that still make you racist? Even if you include yourself in any of those categories?

South Park is a success primarily because its characters say what’s on most of our minds. The show is criticized for putting stuff out there that we as an individual or a group think about and would like to say but don’t because “we know better.” And it’s this type of censorship that people like the MPAA would love to get their hands on. South Park is a smart show in that it plays to the senses of post modernists. Unlike the everyday news that covers the same topics of conflict occurring overseas and at home providing one sided views (for the most part), South Park provides a more interactive perspective.

Most people these days are into the world of reality shows. Soap operas and shows like Leave it to Beaver and the Brady Bunch are more old school. “Reality” shows like the Jersey shore and MTV’s The Real World are subpar but it’s South Park that continues to thrive and attract audiences due to the social content that we can actually partake in. According to Lash, the postmodernist has shifted to a stress on the visual, drawing from everyday life, and contesting rationalist views of culture. (Barker  P 341)

South Park is a reflection of our culture in the sense that it takes one person to make everyone else in the group look bad. Cartman is a parent’s worst nightmare and he reflects the old world, providing the audience with one sided racial views of life and culture. The other kids in the group who represent the new world/post modernists, either succeed in changing Cartman’s views or they at least make him question his current views. And it’s this imbalanced scale of 1 to 4 or 100 to 1 that seems to be in constant play. It takes a group of people to cause a shift in one person’s view or it takes just one person to change a group of people.

South Park has a loyal audience because they don’t reinforce the racial biases like the news does. If you’re constantly hearing on the news how there was a mugging or murder that took place and a specific race is mentioned, society begins to adopt racial views without thinking about it. Because our fear has us hooked on this “breaking news” we put all this emotion and attention on what’s being said. It becomes a lesson for us: “what can we learn from this event - whom should I fear?”  And South Park takes it one step further by providing us with information about political and social events by giving more than just one sided views. But most people don’t see that. I guess it comes down to what you want to focus on, the negative or the positive … the good or the bad. But never both, right?

Moneyball – a change in ideas

Moneyball exemplifies the continuous struggle between the old world and the new world, the constant power play of I’m right and you’re wrong.  Billy Beane and Peter Brand’s plan to find overlooked, undervalued baseball players through the use of mathematical equations made no sense to the much older, super power recruiters.

The idea of out with the old and in with the new became a threat for the older recruiters. The idea of using mathematical figures as opposed to the “tried and tested” reliable method of one’s “gut feeling” would put any old world employee at odds with any new comer. Sticking with the old ways of how things are done and not attempting to try something new will always cause conflict. And it’s the struggle of finding something new, attempting to use it, and modifying it that becomes the focal point of any issue.

In times of recession and high unemployment rate, people are scared of losing their jobs. Even when times aren’t tough, a new employee who has some “weird” ideas that are brilliant for the company as a whole, this new person puts everyone else in his or her department on guard. Every move becomes scrutinized; every reason questioned and stomped on. It’s the extinguishing of old “popular ways” that pushes the old world into a web of fear putting them at odds with everything that is different.

The old world is more like the parent and the new world is the teenager rebelling against it. The teenager is more willing to push the boundaries of the old world views. They’re like the pop icons: Elvis Presley and his controversial hip shaking moves in the 50’s and Madonna’s provocative sexual content in the 80’s.  They were the “mavericks” by confronting/enduring the criticism of the social police. Beane and Brand being the teenagers of the recruiting group of the Oakland A’s, they had to take the necessary measures to see their plan through to get their point across – the plan will work.

And it’s any plan that will make or break one’s career. People are told “this is how we do it” or “that’s the way it’s been” and it’s this old way of thinking that potentially keeps businesses afloat just enough to get by or it causes the collapse of the company. New ideas may do either or the idea may propel a company to the top. A word may be worth a thousand pictures but it’s the idea and formula that brings that big picture together that drives this money making, money driven world.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Space has had both a positive and negative effect on society. With urban areas being the more predominant central hub for businesses and social interaction, competition for space began to rise. Being a capitalistic society, tax breaks allowed for businesses to spread out in more rural areas which in turn allowed for new businesses to pop up and the construction of homes in this newly developed area created the suburbs. Both society and capitalists were able to share in the American dream of making money and owning property.

Space plays an important role in how one interacts in society. The access to open land may convey the notion of freedom and superiority in the land of suburbia whereas in a more urban area the struggle for survival of the fittest becomes vital for both businesses and individuals. Competition is fierce for businesses competing amongst each other aiming to grab the attention of consumers; and as for making a buck, an urbanite needs to be more skillful and educated, and in some instances conniving, to beat their competition when it comes to scarce employment opportunities.

Suburban areas gave the illusion of safety, an ideal place for fear stricken parents to raise their kids in a less congested area since crime was more prominent in the urban areas. Disneyland was the suburban area for parents – it’s the ideal place for kids and adults to interact with one another without having to worry about one’s safety. It provided a controlled environment for all. You start at the entrance on Main Street where the buildings are initially to scale, large and tall, and as you continue on down the street the structures become smaller and smaller thereby giving you the illusion that you’re taller/stronger, making you feel like you’re in control in this land of illusion that you are alright once again just like when you were a kid. You feel more at ease and are more likely to travel throughout the park and stay all day and night and hopefully you’ll be inclined to spend more of your money there while you create some family memories.

Tall structures and crowded areas may have caused some panic for some where others may see cities like Chicago and New York City as the only place to live and socialize as they provide boundless opportunities to interact with friends, eat at new restaurants, or go clubbing. Regardless of where you go, from the space in your home, to the office you work at, or the restaurant you’re dining in, each of these different spaces compact or spacious, dictates ones social interactions where the rules change from place to place. Expectations are already set in place and deviating from the social norms of any particular place will put you at odds with the social police. You’ll be targeted for your deviant actions.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Reference point

The industrial era had a positive effect on American life: there was a mass production of goods and there were plenty of job opportunities. Technology and the inventions that came with it helped us to finish the home chores sooner and it helped us become more efficient employees.

Yet when technology entered the war zone people began to see how our advancement brought us fear and death. With WW1 and the travesties it brought, many people became disillusioned. Death and destruction bring on the mirrored glasses and people begin to question their identity as an individual, among the masses, and one united as a nation.

Who are we in this world? What’s important in this commerce driven, power hungry world? As individuals or groups, do we choose to play the game, resist it, or find a middle ground? Modernists may have seen the flaws of traditional values and how they no longer hold true in an industrialized society but it’s the post modernists who feel that what is true now may not be true later on. Truth becomes an ever-evolving answer never remaining constant. Morality is personal and the governing bodies provide disillusionment since they are either corrupt or are filled with empty promises.

It’s the struggle of who is right and who is wrong that the answers usually become blurred. Both parties may 
bring valid points where the opposing party will always see a flaw. And it’s this issue of what is truth, what is reality that brings to mind most of today’s “witty” “smart” films.  In Annie Hall we don’t know what is fact and what is fiction. You may agree that it’s a loosely based autobiographical film of Woody Allen and his inability to be in a long lasting relationship or not.

What is interesting is the use of cartoon scenes of Alfy and Annie in one scene, to the out of body experience during sex to represent the lack of interest in sex, to Alfy going back in time to when he kissed a girl in class and he’s the adult version of himself in that time frame as opposed to being a kid. It’s reliving these moments in such a way that we, to some extent, have viewed our past experiences in a twisted way.  I think that it’s a representation of how we sometimes refer back to our own personal history from an emotional  or dejected view that one’s “truth” may not be true at all. You can replay those memories, those moments in life to the way you may remember them but it may not be how it actually happened.

Which is what I think most of do when it comes to social issues. What may be accurate right now may not be true later on.  Facts may be skewed and emotions are played with, thereby turning reality into something else. History may be a reference point to what happened then to learn what we could do to prevent any future harm, but it’s the person viewing that history through their own lens that one’s own personal views causes the information being read to be misconstrued.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Radical Romantic Comedy

I found the movie 10 to be more of a radical romantic comedy in that it followed "the basic framework [of] boy meets, loses, [and then] regains girl...." (Page 72)

George and Samantha have had a relatively stable relationship until George turns 42.  He looks back on the last two years as if he’s dying since he says he's an invalid now. We see him in a midlife the night of his party as he renounces the adage "Life begins at 40" since he feels life has ended. He loves living vicariously through his neighbor since he's constantly observing the sexual activity that goes on there and he’s not satisfied with his own sex life which is part of the reason he’s a peeping tom. And being young is a recurring theme in the movie.  He tells a therapist he would settle for being at least thirty and would even consider trading places with his gay co-writer’s partner if it mean being young and virile once again. He’s become obsessed with age and looks that he goes off to find Jenny, the one who can restore his manhood.

Samantha is not the traditional woman since she knows what George uses his telescope for and is able to accept it without making a big deal about it. She's a strong willed woman who’s able to bring up the issues that bother her and can see sex for what it is without being naive about it. As the viewer, you get the sense that she knows George would stray from their relationship.  For when George sees Jenny and follows her to the church, the song that Samantha sings in the background  says it all:

Why is it I never doubt him
Then I've known all along
Now and then the very best of men must roam
Sure I get lonely without him

But a man, right or wrong
The more you bind him
The less you find him home.

Samantha isn’t one to fool and you would be damned if you tried to pull a fast one on her.  She’s a progressive woman for her time - a romantic who is also realistic.

George seems to be stuck in the 50’s - 60’s era and really isn’t the “man” out of the three main characters.  Jenny is just the huntress Samantha is.  George isn’t the hunter – he becomes the hunted. He daydreams of running into Jenny and having this romantic encounter filled with passionate and emotional sex when it’s typically the woman who fills this role. The roles are reversed in this movie. It’s Jenny who puts the moves on him and is ready and willing to sleep with him. When George realizes it’s not her first time sleeping around and that he won’t be her last, he’s disillusioned with the whole idea, just like a woman would be. There’s nothing romantic about it anymore and he’s no longer that na├»ve about women, young or older. He’s sort of matured at this point.

Jenny’s comfortable with her sexuality that she’s able to share an intimate moment just like a man can, which brings to mind 2011’s Friends with Benefits and the possibility for a woman to be sexually involved with a man without the strings attached. Friends with Benefits is indicative of today’s modern women who is not always looking to be in a relationship, or married for that matter, and that they can still be respectable women just like men without adding the extra baggage to their lives. But it’s the man in the 60’s and even of today’s time that are expecting to have their cake and eat too without expecting for the woman to do the same.  It’s a double standard that continues to play both in movies and in real life.